At the north end of Market Street in the small town of Cootehill on the Cavan-Monaghan border is this Gothic-style church in the Parish of Drumgoon. It was erected in 1819 to accommodate a congregation of 600 (replacing an earlier parish church built in Church Street in 1639). It is part of the Protestant Church of Ireland which was then the established church. But for historical reasons Cootehill has attracted a host of other denominations (explained below). The church in the photo, which was named “All Saints’” in 1972, stands near the entrance to the Bellamont Forest demesne, home of the Coote family who founded the town. It contains a memorial to Charles Coote of Bellamont Forest who died in 1842 Link
In the middle of the 17th century Thomas COOTE, who had been governor of Coleraine, and his wife Frances HILL settled on a large estate immediately adjacent to a hamlet then known as Munnilly. The Cootes combined their surnames to call their house and estate ‘Cootehill’. Linen production was then developing in the region and, with the Cootes’ support and property, Munnilly expanded and was renamed Cootehill. By the end of the 17th century Cootehill town had begun attracting skilled weavers and flax spinners from other parts of Ulster.
Further development of the town’s cottage-based ‘brown’ linen industry was primarily due to the efforts of Judge Thomas Coote (1655-1741) H6015 : An architectural gem: Bellamont House and its history
. He was an enthusiastic promoter of the linen trade throughout Ireland and succeeded in establishing Cootehill as a market town, obtaining a patent to hold markets and fairs there in 1725. The Cootes renamed their estate ‘Bellamont Forest’ in 1767 while the town continued to prosper. By 1800 it was attracting buyers from as far afield as Belfast, Dublin and London. However by the 1830s growth of the large linen mills in the Lagan valley at Lisburn, and other ‘factories’ put cottage-based linen markets like Cootehill into rapid decline. The process led to some depopulation of the area, which was later accentuated by the awful famine of the 1840s. So the Market House and all the flax and scutch mills have long since disappeared from Cootehill, and there is today little evidence of the great industry which first established it as an important market town. Link
The unusual religious diversity in the town, mentioned earlier, was caused by the rapid expansion of its linen market by the Cootes indiscriminately encouraging skilled linen workers to come from other parts of Ireland. The little town filled with a multiplicity of Christian denominations, and by the end of the 18th century there were at least seven different houses of worship there. Early arrivals from the north-east were Presbyterians of Scottish descent H6014 : The history of the Presbyterian Church in Cootehill
. There were also a few Quakers who had a Meeting House in the town in 1738 and were active there until 1900. Moravians and the Methodists, dissenters from the established church, each started congregations in the town H5914 : John Wesley and the Methodist Church of Cootehill
. They were followed by two other break-away groups, one from the Presbyterian and one from the Methodist church. Finally, at the close of the 18th century, the Catholics, the largest denomination in the area, were permitted to build a house of worship. In 1826 they had St Michael’s chapel at the bottom of Chapel Lane. This was replaced in 1930 by the present St Michael’s church on a new site Link
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